The Charlotte News

Saturday, September 22, 1940



Site Ed. Note: As for "Ol' 42", at least one index, Morgan Quitno's annual Health Care State Rankings, now ranks North Carolina as 30th among the states in terms of access to health care services, affordability of those services and general health of the population. Texas is now 42nd. New Hampshire, Vermont, Hawaii, Iowa and Minnesota rank 1 through 5 on these criteria. Eleven out of the lowest 17 states are in the South. Only Virginia and Kentucky, at 22nd and 29th respectively, rank ahead of North Carolina among Southern states in health. The healthiest region of the country on this index is New England, embracing five of the top ten spots.

Re "Work or Eat", see Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 US 156 (1972), a case in which vagrancy laws were struck down as being unconstitutionally vague. Justice Douglas authored the opinion. Having been arrested himself for hopping freights at an early point in his life, Douglas was long an opponent of such laws, often used merely to harass the poor or those disliked by law enforcement in a given locality, as well as to discriminate by race.

Footnote 3 of Papachristou, provides from a 1937 English case a brief explanation of the feudal origins of the statutes and why by 20th century restiveness, their reasons had long become anachronistic:

"The early Vagrancy Acts came into being under peculiar conditions utterly different to those of the present time. From the time of the Black Death in the middle of the 14th century till the middle of the 17th century, and indeed, although in diminishing degree, right down to the reform of the Poor Law in the first half of the 19th century, the roads of England were crowded with masterless men and their families, who had lost their former employment through a variety of causes, had no means of livelihood and had taken to a vagrant life. The main causes were the gradual decay of the feudal system under which the labouring classes had been anchored to the soil, the economic slackening of the legal compulsion to work for fixed wages, the break up of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, and the consequent disappearance of the religious orders which had previously administered a kind of `public assistance' in the form of lodging, food and alms; and, lastly, the economic changes brought about by the Enclosure Acts. Some of these people were honest labourers who had fallen upon evil days, others were the `wild rogues,' so common in Elizabethan times and literature, who had been born to a life of idleness and had no intention of following any other. It was they and their confederates who formed themselves into the notorious `brotherhood of beggars' which flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were a definite and serious menace to the community and it was chiefly against them and their kind that the harsher provisions of the vagrancy laws of the period were directed." (Ledwith v. Roberts, 1937. 1 K. B. 232, 271)

Douglas, an avid hiker in the northwest when the Court was out of session in the summers, even quoted Thoreau in footnote 7 of the opinion to debate the rationale for such statutes, that they were by design to get at "habitual nightwalkers" or those who wander or stroll from place to place without any apparent purpose:

"I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks, --who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering: which word is beautifully derived `from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretence of going a la Sainte Terre,' to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, `There goes a Sainte Terrer,' a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels." Excursions 251-252 (1893).

In yet another footnote, the opinion quotes the reasons FDR had put forth to veto a revised vagrancy law for the District of Columbia:

"The bill contains many provisions that constitute an improvement over existing law. Unfortunately, however, there are two provisions in the bill that appear objectionable.

"Section 1 of the bill contains a number of clauses defining a `vagrant.' Clause 6 of this section would include within that category `any able-bodied person who lives in idleness upon the wages, earnings, or property of any person having no legal obligation to support him.' This definition is so broadly and loosely drawn that in many cases it would make a vagrant of an adult daughter or son of a well-to-do family who, though amply provided for and not guilty of any improper or unlawful conduct, has no occupation and is dependent upon parental support.

"Under clause 9 of said section `any person leading an idle life . . . and not giving a good account of himself' would incur guilt and liability to punishment unless he could prove, as required by section 2, that he has lawful means of support realized from a lawful occupation or source. What constitutes `leading an idle life' and `not giving a good account of oneself' is not indicated by the statute but is left to the determination in the first place of a police officer and eventually of a judge of the police court, subject to further review in proper cases. While this phraseology may be suitable for general purposes as a definition of a vagrant, it does not conform with accepted standards of legislative practice as a definition of a criminal offense. I am not willing to agree that a person without lawful means of support, temporarily or otherwise, should be subject to the risk of arrest and punishment under provisions as indefinite and uncertain in their meaning and application as those employed in this clause.

"It would hardly be a satisfactory answer to say that the sound judgment and decisions of the police and prosecuting officers must be trusted to invoke the law only in proper cases. The law itself should be so drawn as not to make it applicable to cases which obviously should not be comprised within its terms." H. R. Doc. No. 392, 77th Cong, 1st Sess.

The Papachristou case followed by six years Douglas's interesting Dissent to the dismissal by the Court of a previously granted writ of certiorari in Hicks v. District of Columbia, 383 U.S. 252 (1966), the case of a guitar playing troubadour arrested in Dupont Circle. In an appendix to the opinion, Justice Douglas placed the full text of a Washington Post article from June 14, 1963. The article concludes with a worthy quote from an attorney passing by one of the many hootenannies which followed on Dupont Circle in the wake of the arrest of Mr. Hicks: "If a man chooses to spend his life playing a guitar, who has the right to insist that he engage in some sort of servitude?"

Remember it should they ever stone you while you're playing your guitar.

Or sing to them from "Song of the Open Road", by Walt Whitman, as also referenced by Douglas in Papachristou:

...You road I enter upon and look around! I believe you are not all that is here;
I believe that much unseen is also here.
Here the profound lesson of reception, neither preference or denial;
The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd, the illiterate person, are not denied;
The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the
laughing party of mechanics,
The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,
The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from
the town,
They pass--I also pass--anything passes--none can be interdicted;
None but are accepted--none but are dear to me.

You air that serves me with breath to speak!
You objects that call from diffusion my meanings, and give them shape!
You light that wraps me and all things in delicate equable showers!
You paths worn in the irregular hollows by the roadsides!
I think you are latent with unseen existences--you are so dear to me.
You flagg'd walks of the cities! you strong curbs at the edges!
You ferries! you planks and posts of wharves! you timber-lined sides! you distant ships!
You rows of houses! you window-pierc'd façades! you roofs!
You porches and entrances! you copings and iron guards!
You windows whose transparent shells might expose so much!
You doors and ascending steps! you arches!
You gray stones of interminable pavements! you trodden crossings!
From all that has been near you, I believe you have imparted to yourselves, and
now would impart the same secretly to me;
From the living and the dead I think you have peopled your impassive surfaces, and the spirits
thereof would be evident and amicable with me...

Or quote, in brave combination, a verse or two from Vachel Lindsay's poem, also referenced by Douglas in the case:

I want to go wandering. Who shall declare
I will regret if I dare?

To the rich days of age--
To some mid-afternoon--
A wide fenceless prairie,
A lonely old tune,
Ant-hills and sunflowers,
And sunset too soon.

Behind the brown mountain
The sun will go down;
I shall climb, I shall climb,
To the sumptuous crown;
To the rocks of the summit,
And find some strange things:--
Some echo of echoes
When the thunder-wind sings;
Old Spanish necklaces,
Indian rings,
Or a feeble old eagle
With great, dragging wings.
He may leave me and soar;

But if he shall die,
I shall bury him deep
While the thunder winds cry.

And there, as the late of my earth-nights go:
What is the thing I shall know?
With a feather cast off from his wings
I shall write, be it revel or psalm,
Or whisper of redwood, or cypress, or palm,--
The treasure of dream that he brings.

The soul of the eagle will call,
Whether he lives or he dies:--
The cliff and the prairie call,
The sagebrush and starlight sing,
And the songs of my far-away Sangamon call
From the plume of the bird of the Rockies,
And midnight's omnipotent wing--
The last of my earth-nights will ring
With cries from a far haunted river,
And all of my wandering,

Or, if you wish to be cryptic, try, not referenced in Papachristou, (but why not?):

Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann
Und mir stecks auch im Blut
D'rum wand're ich froh so lang ich kann
Und schwenke meinen Hut
Valderi, Valdera, Valderi, Valderahahaha
Valderi, Valdera, Und schwenke meinen Hut...

Smoked Out

New York Nazi Case Ought To Lead to Law Changes

In New York Magistrate Charles G. Keutgen dismisses Dr. Matthias Schmitz, director of the German Library of Information, a notorious Nazi propaganda agency in this country which is engaged in trying to lull the United States to sleep by painting its master as a gentle bleating little lamb going about the world doing good. It floods newspaper offices--including our own--and thousands of private mailboxes with its gigantic releases--all designed to the sole purpose of suckering us until the cobra is ready to strike.

For his pains the magistrate will be denounced by 4.000 per cent patrioteers as a Nazi on his own account. But he did entirely right. The Nazi produced a document from the German Embassy in Washington saying that he was a diplomatic agent of the German Government. And so, as our law stands, the magistrate could do nothing legally but free him. And as the magistrate said, we cannot fight Hitlerism by throwing away our own laws.

However, there is no reason that the law should stay as it is. Everybody knew already that the outfit was an agent of the German Government, but now the fact is indisputable. In point of truth, it is well known that the German diplomatic corps in this country is swollen to incredible proportions--that there are at least twenty times as many members of it as could have any legitimate business here. These extra members are all engaged in subversive activities of one kind or another. And, as a sovereign nation, we do not have to submit to that. It is our right to limit the number and kind of persons who would be accepted and granted diplomatic immunity, and the matter should be attended to at once.


Times On FDR

It Leads Off With a Paramount Assumption

In its three-column editorial announcement in support of Mr. Willkie, The New York Times martials strong arguments against the re-election of President Roosevelt. These are, principally, that--

1. Mr. Willkie is better equipped than Mr. Roosevelt to provide this country with adequate national defense, although both are "citizens of the world," hence trustworthy as to foreign policy.

2. Mr. Willkie is a practical liberal who understands the need to increase production, whereas Mr. Roosevelt has encouraged Americans to believe that they all will grow richer by working less and producing less.

3. Mr. Roosevelt's fiscal policies have failed miserably, and with him we are headed down the road to bankruptcy.

4. Mr. Roosevelt has shown a decided unwillingness to renounce extraordinary authority once granted to him and has gathered in unto the office of President power by which an incumbent may perpetuate himself, so that "at a time when the traditional safeguards of democracy are failing everywhere it is particularly important to honor and preserve the American tradition against...three consecutive terms of office."

These are the generalities of The Times' case for Mr. Willkie and against Mr. Roosevelt, upon which it particularizes in the body of its earnest declaration. There is only one thing about it that leaves us troubled.

That is the easy assumption that Mr. Willkie as President would take up where Mr. Roosevelt had left off and carry out his admirable foreign policy with equal astuteness and even greater success. For the times are such that unless this question can be answered with positive conviction in Mr. Willkie's favor, the other questions lose the importance that ordinarily they would have.


Work or Eat

Cabarrus Sheriff Will Find His Hands Tied

Sheriff Ray Hoover over in Cabarrus is getting on shaky ground when he threatens to force habitual loafers in Concord to pick cotton for farmers.

A sheriff has no legal authority to attempt any such move unless these people are vagrants in the strict sense. And then his only authority is to arrest them and leave it up to the courts to decide whether or not they shall be sent to the county roads.

His impatience with the laziness of trifling people who have no visible means of support and who refuse jobs which they are able to fill is understandable. Entirely so. In fact, that is one of the primary reasons the great body of people in this country will never grow fully reconciled to the relief of the able-bodied.

We know how the Sheriff feels, and can sympathize with the reason for his threat. But he can't make 'em work if they don't want to for that would be forced labor. You used to be able to tell 'em to go ahead and starve, dagnab 'em, but you can't do that anymore. Not with much effect, anyhow, for too well they know that no matter whether they want work and can't get it or can get it and don't want it, somebody will feed them indiscriminately.


The 25 Bombers

Another Installment of Proposed Aid to Britain

Every now and again a phrase takes on so much meaning and significance that, standing by itself, it speaks volumes, "Munich," for example. Or "the 50 destroyers."

The proposal to send the 50 destroyers to Britain began, as far as the record shows, as a project of the Committee, headed by William Allen White, to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. Well-heeled with patriotism, military counsel and--judging by the appearance and frequency of its broadsides--money, this committee exerts its influence through local organizations scattered over the country which respond to its appeals by wiring the President, their Senators and Representatives.

And now that the 50 destroyers are on their way, the White committee would follow them up with "25 Flying Fortresses." That too may become another historic phrase, covering not only this country's developing status as a belligerent but additional material of war with which the British may carry the fight to the enemy.

For in addition to the "25 Flying Fortresses," the committee urges that as many combat planes as possible and twenty motor torpedo boats be sent.

Nothing is said yet about men--about pilots and skilled seamen and soldiers. But that is bound to follow if the White Committee carries its aid to Britain to the logical end of enabling her to overcome whatever odds of German and Italian power is massed against her.

Whether this country shall let Britain fight it out alone, giving her such moral support and minor assistance as appears safe, or shall pitch in and go the whole way in common cause against the common enemy, is a decision that we should not care to have to make. But this much appears to be sensible, that if we want to aid Britain, the matter in which that should be done is openly, in bulk and now, and not on the installment plan from critical time to critical time.


Ol' 42

To Find Tar Heelia, Always Look in 42nd Place

We have frequently commented on the distressing fact that in any table listing the states in the order of their wealth, culture and facilities of civilization, North Carolina is to be found either smack in 42nd place or hard by. So invariably does this turn out to be the case that we have come to speak of Tar Heelia, though not without affection and understanding, as "Ol' 42."

Ol' 42 she is, though scrambling upwards as fast as determined spirit and the most bountiful natural resources can take her.

In the matter of hospitals, for example, you could never convince Charlotteans that their state is notably deficient. With two brand new and one augmented hospitals to their credit, all built in part by painful private subscription, and with a new top capacity of some 750 hospital beds, the people of the city may be pardoned for assuming that they alone have made so great an improvement in this respect as to bring up the average of the state as a whole.

But it is not so. Before us lies a table showing by states the number of hospital beds per 1,000 population, and there--not in 42nd place this time but in 45th--sits North Carolina. But give her time.


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